Eisenhower Matrix – Important things First

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – President Dwight Eisenhower


The Eisenhower Matrix is one of the best, simplest and clearest time-management tools that you should always use; below is the associated framework




After a long day at work, most people cannot readily name what they have achieved. When asked the question what the long-term impact is of what you have been working on for 8-12 hours, most have no idea. This is where the Eisenhower Matrix comes into play. It is the perfect tool for separating the (1) tasks that you need to do, (2) things to plan, (3) what to delegate, and (4) what to eliminate. Using the Eisenhower Matrix will make you more productive by becoming more effective.


1) Do

The first category is for things you need to do, these are important and urgent. Work for an upcoming deadline on a management report or last-minute preparations on a presentation are examples in this category. This is work that you are most qualified to do. This is where you add value, but mostly in the short-term.

2) Plan

To reduce pressure on the first category, you need to plan your important tasks. This can be research (on that presentation that is due in two weeks) or designing a system to report finances (for that management report). Things you do here are things that have a long-term impact. At the same time, it is difficult to actively engage in these kinds of activities (because of the lack of urgency). Two motivators may help you to spend more time here, a) urgency equals pressure, here is where you can avoid that, b) you can design time-saving devices that make the ‘Do’ category more manageable.

3) Delegate

Tasks that do not add value to your work but do need to be completed, should be delegated. These are tasks that someone else can do more easily and/or will not add to your work outcomes. Emails and tasks that are relevant to other people may fall into this category. Of course, it is good to help your colleagues, but only do this when you are the right person for that task. If you are not the perfect person for a task, delegate it.

4) Eliminate

If it is not important and not urgent, then eliminate the task. Browsing ‘news’ websites, watching TV and exchanging gossip at the water cooler are all examples of this category. Less obvious examples can be the reorganization of your folders, or aligning pictures in your powerpoint that will not be used externally. Busy work and other time-consuming activities should be eliminated.


  1. Peter reserves the first two hours of his workday to work on planned (2) tasks, during this time he is not to be disturbed
  2. Sarah used to book all her flights herself, but now leaves it to her secretary (3)
  3. James is very well prepared for his presentation (2) and is just adding the latest developments from last week to the slide deck (1)


When to Use

Always. Ok, maybe daily, but certainly weekly. The Eisenhower Matrix will lessen the clutter you have in your life and get you to focus on the tasks that really matter. At first it may take some getting used to, but believe me that you will do this automatically very quickly. Be sure to use it in your work or studies, and maybe even try it out for the rest of your life.

“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.”  – Leo Babauta



More on the Eisenhower Matrix:

http://www.eisenhower.me/ – Eisenhower Matrix app for iOS

http://lifehacker.com/dwight-eisenhowers-best-productivity-tricks-1579214953 – LifeHacker post on Eisenhower

http://www.positive-change-tools-for-success.com/Time-Management-Matrix.html – Covey Time Management Grid